Monday, October 31, 2005

Say Hello To Jack...

Poems for Halloween

"The Witches' Flight"
by Felice Holman

Magical Prognosticator,
Chanting canting Calculator,
Exorcist and Necromancer,
Veneficial Sabbat Dancer,
Striga, arted, and capricious
Conjurer and Maleficus,
Tonight how many witches fly?
How many brooms will sweep the sky?


"Witches' Menu" by Sonja Nikolay
Live lizard; dead lizard

Marinated, fried.
Poached lizard, pickled lizard
Salty lizard hide.
Hot lizard, cold lizard
Lizard over ice.
Baked lizard, boiled lizard
Lizard served with spice.
Sweet lizard, sour lizard

Smoked lizard heart.
Leg of lizard, lion of lizard
Lizard a la carte.


"Wicked Witch's Kitchen" by X.J. Kennedy
You're in the mood for freaky food?

You feel your taste buds itchin'
For nice fresh poison ivy green?
Try Wicked Witch's Kitchen!

She has corn on the cobweb, cauldron-hot,
She makes the meanest cider,
But her broom stick cakes and milkweed shakes
Aren't fit to feed a spider.

She likes to brew hot toadstool stew-
"Come eat, my sweet!" she'll cackle-
But if you do, you'll turn into
A jack-o'-lantern's jackal.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wizard Policing

The Ford Anglia car used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has been stolen from the South West Film Studios in St Agnes. PC Terry Hodgson of Devon and Cornwall Police said that it might have been stolen to order by a Harry Potter fan, but added: "We can't rule out the possibility that Lord Voldemort is behind this."
The Times, 29th Oct 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

I, Billy-Bob, take thee, Billy-Sue...

Having been engaged for pretty much exactly a year, we finally got round to booking the registry office and going in to give our Notice of Marriage. This largely consists of proving to them that you're not actually hillbilly twins, and handing over 30 quid each.

Duly producing our birth certificates for the scrutiny of the Superintendent Registar, it transpires that the writing on C's certificate is actually hers. Another warm and fuzzy moment brought to you by Redneck County, yes ma'am.

The process then goes thus: the prospective groom is asked (in front of the prospective bride) a string of questions about his family, age, occupation etc. He is then asked the same questions about the Bride (I could quite go with the Uma Thurman imagery here), who is then in turn asked the same questions, about herself, and about him, that he has just answered. Oh, joyful bureaucracy. The groom is then recorded as having given Notice of Marriage (hey, who made the appointment, hmmn?) and your fathers' occupations are taken for the marriage certificate (both of us proving vague on this one - no we're really not hillbilly twins madam). Note to self: find out what mine actually did, other than fall out with people on a rotational basis, before they ask me the same set of questions all over again in six months or so. And you're not allowed to put your mother down instead. Grrr.

One interesting point, the registry office is moving, so we won't be getting married in Berkley Vale: it sounds like it will be the old All Saints School building. Unless they're still in their "temporary accommodation" which sounds ominous - could be a portacabin folks...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fingals (3) - Our Lady Of The Books

Fingals is situated in a steep little valley about a mile out of Dittisham, which lies on the river Dart. The river was brown and tea-like, presumably from the days of heavy rain washing down from the surrounding fields. We caught the little ferry from the pontoon outside the pink pub - very luckily, as there were more people waiting than it could take. With a maximum load of twelve passengers and only three spaces left, the group in front of us was a four so we just scriggled on. The trip down river takes about half an hour, and goes past Agatha Christie's boathouse (and house, Greenway, presumably, but this is hidden in the trees). Also on the boat was the waitress from Fingals, who of course in the manner of these things we then kept bumping into as we wandered round Dartmouth (which is clean and pretty, with a couple of streets of shops and plenty of choices for eating).

Walking up the hill away from the main shopping area, we came across a dilapidated church, with a sign reading "secondhand books and junk emporium" which sounded promising. Venturing up the excitingly steep, dark, twisting and crumbly steps past rows of hanging teapots being used as flowerpots and other peculiar items, we emerged in the main body of the church - which was absolutely filled with books. Shelves and shelves and shelves of them, on every topic you could think of, quietly mouldering to themsleves and watched over by a beautiful fading Virgin Mary at the end. The roof was leaking, the windows were cracked, and there were just books everywhere, it was fabulous.

After about an hour (I'm told) I took my selection to the chain-smoking man sitting in the middle of the books, and he let me have them for a fiver, which was kind, as it gave me about £1.60 off. Possibly because I made him laugh - "well you've got quite a mixture here, haven't you" he said. Twice.

Back into the sunlight, and we took a flight of steps between the houses down to the waterside, and made our way back through the town to a pub for lunch - the Cherub Inn. This was a lovely old black and white timber-framed building, with a profusion of planters and hanging baskets outside. I had a pint of Cherub Bitter and a fresh Dartmouth crab sandwich, and C. had a cheese and pickle sandwich and a half of Doom Bar. We were tucked in the downstairs bar, with a high-backed wooden pew-type bench under a twisting staircase to the upper floors.

After lunch it was time for an ice-cream (well this was the sea-side, sort of). We'd passed a likely looking place selling home-made ice cream on the way to the pub, and went back to select delicious morrello cherry and ginger cones respectively.

The weather, which had been sunny and quite hot so far, began to cloud over as we took the ferry back up-river, and as we were nearing Dittisham the rain began - we made it back to the car just in time before the downpour began in earnest. The drive back was still considerably drier than the journey up however - giving us at least an idea of what the surrounding countryside was like this time!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fingals (2) - Full of Beans

Once we'd recovered ourselves somewhat, we ventured back into the main building (our room was back out into the cold, along under a dripping balcony, through the games room and entered through its own secluded little courtyard-y area). We made our dinner choices and settled back into a sofa by the log fire, to watch the handful of small posh children running about. Was gratified to find all stereotypes confirmed through one blonde moppet actually being called Matilda.

Fitted in a game of pool on the genuine Victorian snooker table (no doubt genuine original ripped baize and wonky cues too?) before dinner. At least you feel a certain sense of value when games last so long because nothing will go in a straight line (that's my excuse, anyway).

Dinner was taken in the panelled and candlelit dining room, on a long table that sociably sits ten of the guests. We had curried pumpkin soup and fresh bread to start with, followed by Brill in basil hollandaise (me) and pork tenderloin (C). Veggies were handed round in communal serving dishes, carrots & leeks, courgette & aubergine, cabbage, and cubed chipped potatoes. We were told by guests that had been there previously that the French chef, Eric, was a true artist in that he had occasional off days, when the food was actually inedible, but thankfully he was on good form that night! For dessert we had raspberry cheesecake (as believe it or not the lightest thing on offer!) which had bits of stem ginger in the base which gave it an extra perkiness.

Coffee and mints were served out in the lounge, but it wasn't long before we sloped off to our room (before the chap next to me started to wonder aloud why there was only half a cup of decaffinated coffee in the steel cafetiere that he'd ordered. Well it's not like I'd have drunk decaf on purpose is it. He should have come away from the table sooner 'sall...).

Having retired for the night, the only minus point here was the security light right outside the door - which we had no control over, and which was on constantly rather than using a sensor. This made it much too light in the room for my sleeping confort, requiring the head-under-duvet method of avoidance, which then just meant I kept waking up too hot... For a blissful period in the middle of the night, it did finally go off, only to wake me up when it came on again some time later!

Breakfast at half nine was a tasty affair - freshly squeezed orange juice (and a very nifty jug that keeps the icecubes in - want one!), fresh toast and croissants (home-produced jam, marmalade and honey too), and a full english - one (smallish) sausage, one bit of bacon, one egg, one tomato (and the swiftly passed along mushrooms) - am I unreasonably greedy wanting more? It was all so fabulously cooked I could have eaten loads. Obviously you're supposed to fill yourself up on the cereal and fruit beforehand....

The three days of weather had blown itself out, leaving a beautiful morning, so we had a bit of a wander about the grounds (great little platform over a stream where you can sit when it's not the monsoon season). Settled up* and moved off again all too soon, heading for Dittisham and the ferry to Dartmouth.

* Discovered I'd been overcharged by £15 for a room in October when we got home, but that they'd forgotten a couple of drinks we had, so it almost evened out...

Fingals (1) - a PG Tips kinda girl

Just back from venturing into the South Hams area of Devon for the first time, on the recommendation of a friend. We were originally booked into a different hotel, but after they firstly informed us by letter that our room was being downgraded because they had the decorators in, and secondly called us on Wednesday afternoon (we were due to go on the Monday) and told us that we couldn't have dinner as the restaurant was closed, I felt that for over a hundred quid I could expect a bit more, and cancelled. Looking then for a replacement, what I found was Fingals.

This is an old manor house tucked away in a valley near Dittisham ("Dit'sum"). The weather being as appalling as it was on Monday, it took us FOUR HOURS to get there. We finally arrived at teatime, and stood soggily in the bar (there is no reception, you go straight in to the bar, perhaps a reflection of most guests' needs by the time they find it). Eventually the owner appeared, and swept us on a lightening tour of the manor, bags and all. We finally made it to our room, only to be swept out again (with the promise of tea) because he wanted to take some pictures of the room before we 'made ourselves at home'.
"What sort of tea would you like?"
"Er, ordinary?"
"Not Earl Grey or anything?"
"No, just bog-standard's fine thanks..."

Possibly this lack of refinement* lost us his interest, as we found ourselves abandoned, tired, wet and needing the loo, in the kitchen doorway. Eventually trying the door behind us, we found ourselves back in the lounge area, and sank thankfully into one of the big squashy sofas.

Happily, very nice tea then appeared, with biscuits and cake, and we worked our way through these while making friends with their two beautiful dogs, Leaf and Fennel (I've a feeling the chocolate biscuits worked in our favour here). Also took advantage of the loo - and a fantastic creation it was too, with a kind of medieval wooden box effort, and carved pannelling and all manner of knick-knacks round the walls.

Eventually we did make the sanctuary of our room, and flaked out for a while on the VERY large and comfortable bed.

[to be continued...]

* Earl Grey or Chamomile were the only teabags provided in the rooms!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ale Tales

Having a partner in an industry connected however loosely to an industry that involves alcohol has its uses at times, namely, complimentary tickets to the Sponsors' Bash the night before the Falmouth Beer Festival opens. This means, lest it is unclear, FREE BEER. Right up to half nine, when the serious drinkers are distinguished from the hangers on as half go back to the bar and the other half mysteriously vanish (slightly unsteadily) into the night.

Having wondered on previous years why the beer is often all gone on the second night of the (three-day) festival, the hitherto unsuspected existance of this event goes a long way to explaining things. It was shoulder-to-shoulder packed. We were given half-pint tasting glasses, and let loose on the full range. Felt rather odd at first, just going up and asking for a drink that you then didn't pay for. Naturally, we soon got used to it. Free drinks for designated drivers too, which was a good idea.

To identify us from urchins that might wander in off the street, we were given laminated passes on a bit of cotton. This turned out to be very badly tied cotton, as mine promptly fell off and fluttered to the floor. All through the evening you'd hear a sudden annoyed cry and a head would disappear to floor level as yet another pass made a bid for freedom.

Best beer name should, I feel, go to Fox's Nob, although had I been a cider girl it would have gone to Badger's Arse. Despite trying beers from the length and breadth of the country, I still felt that the best ones were Cornish, from the Skinners and Sharp's breweries. We might not be able to do tin or fish any more but by golly we can do beer.

We went along the next day (Friday) too, for the official first day, and thought it was surprisingly quiet compared to the night before. This is of course a good thing, as you don't have to tread on so many people to get to the bar. Finding that high-heeled boots mean you don't get overlooked, and pigtails mean large men with beards let you go in front of them. It's good to have a plan, admittedly one that perhaps wouldn't work for everyone...

Entertainment was provided by the printed programme, as we sat and corrected all the punctuation. Who says we don't know how to have a good time?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hey, nerd...

If you've ever wondered what they're saying in the Chinese bits in Firefly/Serenity or fancied the ability to use the phrases, ooh, at work say - you'll like this site which lists and translates the lot...

Creating A Good Impression

Excellent. Was asked to see to someone's printer (which used to be mine) as it was flashing red lights and not playing. 'It might be running low, you probably just need to give the cartridge a bit of a shake', says I. So I take it out, give it a shake - and shower the desk in toner powder.

Quick recovery - 'that might be your problem then, looks like it's got a hole in it...'

Friday, October 14, 2005

Trengilly Wartha

Thursday night saw us taken for dinner at the Trengilly Wartha as a thank you for house-moving and earth-shifting related efforts. This is a pub/hotel hidden away down the most hair-raising twisting plummet of a track you can imagine, especially undertaken at night. Worth it when you get there though, big wooden high-backed pew-type seats in the bar, Cornish ale and good food.

Had the Hot Steak Sandwich - "marinated rib-eye steak, caramelized onions, aioli* and salad leaves in a soft ciabatta bun" - which was simply marvellous, followed by three mixed balls of Callestick Farm ice cream (incidentally, am I alone in despising rock-hard bits hidden in ice-cream? I don't know what it was supposed to be, but t'was akin to shards of brown glass being hidden in my dessert).

Oh, and moments you're glad you're alone in the loos - standing with your hands under the dryer wondering why it's not coming on, only to realise that it's actually a paper towel holder. Ahem.

* Like garlic mayonnaise that's been sneezed through a straw. Er, in a good way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Went to see Serenity last night, the film spin-off from Joss Whedon's cancelled tv series Firefly. On the evidence of last night it ain't going to make a great deal at the UK box office, being the Monday after it opened, and there was four of us, and one other small group. In the whole cinema. Mind you, no-one else that I mentioned I was going to see it to had even heard of it. Think they need to big-up their advertising a little. Although I suppose it doesn't help matters that the original series hasn't actually been on terrestrial tv over here. Still, bloody marvellous film, and a good excuse for another picture of Nathan Fillion...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Shed

Had Friday afternoon off, and went for lunch at The Shed in Falmouth. Not been in there before, but it had been recommended by a couple of people, and on the whole was very good.

The service was attentive and prompt, although the waiter somewhat bizarrely kept affecting an Italian accent when he was probably actually from somewhere like Lanner. The table for two was a little small (and wobbled), and we had to affect a bit of furniture moving before there was enough room to sit down. And nothing says class quite like sprayed silver plastic chairs.

The wine was good, although not chilled enough, and only one glass size on offer. And as soon as we'd ordered the drinks menu was taken away, precluding further experimentation (possibly this was to make enough room on the table for the plates). The food was very nice, I had spaghetti and meatballs, freshly made and in a very generous portion size (was also quite chuffed that I didn't drop any down my white shirt, even after two glasses...).

The place wasn't too crowded, but busy enough to be friendly, and on a clear day you'd have a great view up the harbour. Certainly somewhere worth another trip, I think.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Overheard on the train on the way home - "mmm, just like grapes, only meaty".

What? No, on second thoughts, I don't want to know.

A Load Of Bull?

The Woodland Trust* are to create 33 new woodlands around the UK to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, in a (possibly slightly late) recognition of the tens of thousands of trees cut down to build the fleet.

One of these will be "Minotaur Wood near Falmouth". The question I think should now be answered is - will there be a real live Minotaur provided?

Full story here.

* When I tried to find their website I first typed "woodlandtryst" which would probably have brought up a quite different type of site...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

*smacks forehead*

Head of department at work took me aside as he was heading out and asked me to put a note on his desk telling him when his PA's birthday was, so he didn't miss it*. I duly wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it to the front of his diary. Next thing, he comes in to speak to (seated) PA, consulting diary held in front of her face with this note stuck to the front of it. Uhhhh.

*Although apparently he'd forgotten that he hadn't actually forgotten it this year, as I'd given him her card to sign.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Sting

Can I just say, ow. Ow, ow owowow. I don't know what it was, but it got caught in my hair this morning on the way to the station, and when I put up my hand to investigate, it stung me. Or possibly bit me (or perhaps, if it was in truth a small flying demon, stabbed me through the finger with its invisible and very small screwdriver). Whatever it did, it bloody hurt, and then I could still feel it scrabbling in my hair (cue cutaway shot of woman under railway bridge dementedly shaking hair and squeaking like rabid dog).

The subsequent stream of consciousness followed: "perhaps it was a wasp, don't people sometimes collapse and die from wasp stings, never been stung before, perhaps I'm going to die, oh well, at least I'll die in good boots. Is it still in my hair? not going to put hand up to find out, if I'm still alive at Truro there's a mirror in the loo, I'll look there."

And, in the previously mentioned British sense of apathy in the face of impending doom* I got on the train and went to work.

Disappointingly, it didn't swell up into an impressive and appalling looking wound (always much better for eliciting sympathy or alternatively, getting out of typing), however it still throbs, and not in a fun way. So I say again, ow.

*ok so it was more a reluctance to demand more bread but still.


Saw Tremors 4 at the weekend. Didn't even know it existed till I saw it on the shelf! Now, Tremors (the original) is one of my all time favourite films, and probably the one that I've seen the most number of times. Anyone else that feels this way will certainly enjoy this, which is basically an hour and a half of in-joke (so if you haven't seen the first one, basically don't rent this on the strength of plot or writing, but if you love it, this should have you bouncing on the sofa with glee).

Also saw Constantine, which was also good, once we'd got over the dvd that kept freezing and the really indistinct sound (not sure if this was part of the 'atmosphere' or just a scratched rental disc but it was bloody annoying). It felt a lot like Simon Green's Nightside books, what with the demons and angels and weapons of power and dodgy nightclubs. Keanu Reeves (John Constantine, exorcist/investigator) might even make a good John Taylor if they ever filmed them (if he could do a convincing British accent of course - so that ain't gonna happen). All in all, very good, also starred Rachael Weisz and featured Peter Stomare as Satan (giving me one of those "what the hell was he in*" periods for the rest of the film.)

* Circus. And Minority Report, and Chocolat.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tapas, or not Tapas

A few of us went to 5 Degrees West last night, for 4 pints of Tribute and convivial ramblings. We ordered the Tapas option from the 'Large Nibbles/To Share' section of the menu, which offered olives, hoummus, guacamole, olives, balsamic oil and local bread. So far, so appetising. However, accompanying the little bowls was one, count it, ONE piece of bread. And that sorry excuse for a sawn-off baguette wasn't especially well endowed. Would it really have broken them to provide two pieces of bread with what is ostensibly a sharing platter? The dips were good, homemade and tasty (although the hoummus would have benefitted from not being quite so refrigerator-cold, or still bearing the imprints of clingfilm wrapping), but sadly there wasn't enough bread to finish them up. Obviously, being stoically British, we didn't actually dare ask for more...

Shoe's On The Other Foot Now

OK, so I went back and bought both pairs that I tried on the first time. This was due to a combination of driving rain and the realisation that ALL the boots and shoes I own leak. So I'm now the proud owner of a pair of high-heeled knee length black leather boots, and a pair of black leather court shoes for work. See how long they survive the stomping...

C. came with me, and after an inital attempt to make a break for the aisle with Men's Things like electric flex, was made to stay and give input: "What do you think of these boots?" "Er, they're very - booty."